Dedication and Mentorship: The Story of an American Diplomat

My journey to the State Department began in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Growing up I was fascinated with the history of Washington, D.C. and challenged myself to establish a career in the nation’s capital.  At the age of 18, I recall being enthralled by a Four-Star General’s television briefing discussing Operation Desert Storm.  Later I found out that the General was none other than Colin Powell, who was then serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Later during his tenure as Secretary of State, I had the opportunity to watch him up close and observe closely his leadership style and care and attention in “taking care of the troops.” 

In 2006, Stacy D. Williams (pictured to the right of General Powell) was named a Colin Powell Fellow. [Photo courtesy of Stacy D. Williams]

A few years later, I started my career in the federal government as an intern at the U.S. Department of the Interior where I worked on environmental justice issues involving Native Americans. This internship reaffirmed my passion for working in Washington, D.C.  After completing my internship, I returned to Southern University, where I met a recruiter from the State Department, who told me about interesting and exciting careers in international affairs.

The recruiter mentioned a 10-week internship, sponsored by the Thursday Luncheon Group (TLG) and the American Foreign Service Association.  I applied and was selected for an internship in the Deputy Secretary of State’s office. This very rewarding internship program introduced me to the real mechanics of carrying out U.S. foreign policy from Washington, DC. The following summer, I was selected to serve as an intern overseas at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia; my first overseas experience.  During my internship, I had a chance to work in each section of the embassy, meet the then-President of Zambia, converse with Zambians, and visit major attractions including Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, and Hwange National Park. Before embarking on this journey I had no idea of what was in store for me, but before long I knew it would be life-changing.

These life experiences cemented my decision to dedicate a career to public service and join the ranks of the Department of State through the Presidential Management Fellows Program. In 2015, I began my role as Acting Deputy Director in the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator, the culmination of nearly two decades working at the Department of State.  In this role, I take great pride in overseeing the management portfolio and assisting in charting and advancing the strategic outlook for U.S. policy objectives in Haiti.  Haiti suffered from a massive earthquake in 2010.  In the aftermath of this natural disaster, the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator was created to manage the U.S. response to this crisis and assist Haiti in its long-term reconstruction efforts. To lead this charge, this office engages the U.S. Government interagency and the donor community and supports economic development, health, and job creation programs including among others.   

My professional development experiences, coupled with an introduction to dedicated and inspiring mentors, were deeply impactful. Along the way, mentors helped guide my direction. TLG, the group that had helped start me on this journey is public service,  welcomed and encouraged me as a young intern and I have been involved with the organization ever since. Stories of TLG members mentoring young professionals are common. TLG looks to continue to recruit and motivate the next generation. My personal experience serves as evidence of the benefit the organization provides to Department of State.  

I now have the honor of serving as TLG President and look to continue this tradition. Recruitment and retention are not just important to our organization, but it is also important to the Department as a whole.  That is why we recently hosted a special film screening of the new PBS documentary America’s Diplomats.  This film explored the role of diplomacy and the challenges our diplomats face. It was inspiring to see so many people from diverse backgrounds attend the film screening and remain afterwards for a panel discussion on careers in foreign affairs.

After viewing the film, I wanted each person to walk away knowing the role of diplomacy is increasingly important against the backdrop of the challenges we face today. I also wanted them to know, their country needs them in all of their diversity. That is what drives me as I aim to help America recruit the best and the brightest to join the ranks of the Department in my role as the president of TLG.  Many of those who attended the film screening reminded me of myself -- that inquisitive kid from Shreveport, Louisiana 25 years ago.  I hope I had the same impact on even one of them, just as that film had on so many people and that recruiter I met as a student at Southern University had on me. 

About the Author: Stacy D. Williams serves in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and is the President of the Thursday Luncheon Group.

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Stacy Williams stands with a group of TLG members after an African American History month event at the State Department.
June 28, 2016


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